NXP bets on tech to solve 'societal' needs

Semiconductor company focuses on high-performance mixed signals, bringing together optimized technologies to produce real-world products to address depleting resources, says exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Amid a changing world filled with challenging issues such as depleting energy and food resources, NXP Semiconductors is looking to utilize its experience in analog and digital technology to produce tools aimed at mitigating these problems.

Headquartered in the Netherlands, the semiconductor company has identified four "mega trends"--energy, mobility, security and health--on which to focus its development efforts, said Rene Penning de Vries, NXP's senior vice president and CTO. It is hoping to leverage its ability to offer products and services that would meet these "societal" needs, he added.

To do so, NXP is banking on its high-performance mixed signals (HPMS) technology to produce "optimized, niche solutions" for everyday living.

"HPMS basically is a set of optimized technologies, which are augmented with digital signal processing, that NXP uses to introduce efficient, smart solutions to meet today's needs," de Vries told ZDNet Asia in an interview.

For instance, he noted that there is a cheaper alternative to the electronic road pricing (ERP) system Singapore currently uses, which comprises electronic toll gantries erected around the city-state.

Cars can be implanted with a chip so that the vehicle can be tracked via global positioning systems (GPS). This will enable local authorities to determine road usage patterns of any time of the day, plan out a flexible tariff system, as well as provide car owners a one-time bill collectively for the number of times they enter a "tolled" area. This way, there will be no need to build gantries, he said.

"The data sent out by the chip can also be secured by NXP's proprietary technology known as 'Smart MX', which is used in securing credit cards, too," de Vries said.

As for mobile phones, and smartphones in particular, de Vries said most of the company's efforts are still in "the research and development stage".

However, he added that NXP is focusing on audio technology in this device segment.

For example, by utilizing Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (Mems)--the integration of mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics on a common silicon substrate through microfabrication--technology, there are now ways to filter out "ambient noises", he said.

de Vries cited an example of how drivers in India tend to use their car horn liberally while on the road, making it noisy to make a call in such situations. "Using our technology, we are now able to filter out the sound of these car horns when making phone calls," de Vries said.

Asked about producing processing chips for smartphones, he said NXP is not involved in this line of business as "it requires huge volumes [of sales] to recoup the initial expenditure". The company is instead focusing on what it does best, which is primarily in the field of HPMS, he added.

de Vries noted that NXP has also come up with a technology based on solar cells, aimed at preventing energy wastage.

He explained that currently, photovoltaic cells within a solar panel are stacked atop one another, and if one of them is shaded--whether by trees, buildings or even bird droppings--power efficiency of the entire panel can drop by between 20 and 30 percent.

To circumvent this problem, NXP has introduced individual photovoltaic cell power converters so that even if one or a few cells are shaded, the rest of the cells in the solar panel can still convert energy optimally, de Vries said.

"What we aim to achieve with HPMS is to measure, calculate and communicate the various electronic data that we have, to bridge the gap between societal trends and new devices and processes," he said.

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